Named after the Mughal king, Aurangzeb, Aurangabad is dotted with historic monuments and ancient marvels like the Ajanta and Ellora Caves and Bibi ka Maqbara. Its no wonder then, that the city is a hit among domestic and foreign tourists alike. This ensures a myriad of hotel options to stay at, and if you’re visiting purely to sightsee, you’ll want to pick a hotel that’s close to as many monuments as possible.

We narrowed down our search to Hotel Meadows and Hotel Green Olive, but picked the latter on the basis of proximity to the railway station and Ellora Caves. If you’re looking for a pool and a room with a view, you won’t get it here. This one is purely a comfortable, convenient base-camp.

GETTING THERE:

Hotel Green Olive is located on a busy street, barely 5-10 minutes away from Aurangabad Railway Station. You can get there by taking a rickshaw from the Station – many drivers know of the place, and if they don’t, the Baba Petrol Pump is a landmark right next to it. Alternatively, if you book online on their website, they arrange a complimentary pick up at any time of the day.

There’s not a lot to see in the immediate vicinity of the hotel – no great restaurants or cafes within walking distance so just stay in, watch TV and order room service once the day is through! Bliss!

THE HOTEL

From the outside, Hotel Green Olive looks boxy and basic. But on stepping in, the lobby immediately seems larger than it actually is, with the smart use of glass and mirrors. This three star hotel provides centrally air-conditioned rooms with a homely touch that’s ideal for a leisure and business traveler. They also have a restaurant offering complimentary breakfast and a pub on the second floor, which we found out about only after we left.

Being a three-star hotel, it offers modern comfort and spotlessly clean rooms, albeit a little too small for my liking. The lobby, rooms and restaurant hinge on the verge of both, basic and tasteful.

THE ROOM

The rooms are air-conditioned and sufficiently decorated. While it was small, it was clean and nicely cared for. It came with all the standard business-hotel offerings – a flat screen TV, fridge, tea and coffee making facilities and toiletries. The bed was super soft and although we asked for an extra bed in our room (we were three people in a double bedroom), even the makeshift arrangement made was comfortable.

The bathroom was again, cramped, but clean nonetheless. Being as small as it is, it is necessary to have a partition between the shower area and the sink+toilet portion of the bathroom instead of merely a curtain and one inch high divide. Our tiny divider had a little hole in it, so the water from the shower flooded the rest of the bathroom and the floor was wet during our entire stay. We made do by putting towels on the floor – which were obviously cold, wet and unpleasant to stand on while brushing our teeth in the morning.

AMENITIES

First of all, let’s talk about the amenity that makes or breaks a hotel experience for most of us – WiFi! It was super-fast, seamless and at no additional charge!

Another important aspect is that travel assistance is provided. The receptionist tells you what you would be able to cover given your time in the city. He maps out the stops in sequence and even arranges a driver for the day. We paid Rs. 1600/- and used the car from 10 am to 5:30 pm. Things we saw include Bibi Ka Maqbara, Ellora Caves. Aurangzeb’s resting place, a temple, a water mill and we also took a coffee break. We did have the option to stop at a couple of other places, but since none of us were interested in silk museum and things like that, we passed it up. Given the distance travelled, its a reasonable fare.

THE FOOD

Apparently the buffet dinners are to die-for, but I didn’t stay at Hotel Green Olive long enough to try it. As far as the complimentary breakfast goes, it was way too simple fir a restaurant of this standard. Simple bread, butter, jam and eggs with one or two south Indian breakfast options comprised of the breakfast menu. Oh, and two varieties of fruits and tea + coffee were offered too. Definite improvements needed here!

WHAT I LOVED

The staff was very polite and went out of their way to cater to our requirements.

Proximity to points of interest and a knowledgeable driver to take care of mapping out routes.

WHAT WOULD MAKE IT BETTER

The breakfast is far too modest for a hotel that presents itself in such an up-market fashion!

A bigger cupboard – it’s cramped with no drawers!

We got a wake up call every morning, multiple times, whether we liked it or not. We could have done without that.

The bathroom can be improved. The motion sensor lights tend to go off and on when you’re in the shower. Took me a while to figure that out, and got thoroughly spooked until then. Too many horror movies, I guess!

GET IN TOUCH:

Cost per night – Rs. 4000/- for 2 Adults

Hotel Green Olive, 13/3 Bhagya Nagar, CBS Road, Beside Punjab National Bank, Near Baba Petrol Pump, Aurangabad- 431 001. Maharashtra.

http://www.hotelgreenolive.com/

 

That’s wraps up my review of Hotel Green Olive. If you’ve ever been to the city, I’d love to know more about where you stayed. Comment below! Also, don’t miss reading this post I wrote about Phoebe’s Farm, Mumbai.

Bye for now!

We took a breezy 30 km ride away from the city of Aurangabad. The hotel we were staying at, The Green Olive, booked us a car for the day and we intended to see as much as we could. Although my cousins and I were still sleepy from checking in at 5 am, we couldn’t help but notice how the concrete jungle gave way to a real one in a matter of minutes as we drove past.

Unlike in the pictures, we didn’t see the Ellora caves standing tall, beckoning us with their age-old secrets. Instead, we made our way through a busy street lined with vendors coaxing us to buy water, ice cream, hats and sunglasses until we reached the gate. There were monkeys everywhere, their eyes darting from one shiny object to the next.

Ellora has 34 caves built between the 5th and 10th centuries and is a symbol of religious harmony that prevailed then. Of the 34 caves, 12 of them are Buddhist ones, 17 are Hindu and 5 are Jain. It is interesting to note that even as caves from new religious sects were built, the older caves from other religious sects were left untouched. They are an enduring icon of India’s rich rock-cut architecture. Being a World Heritage Site, the caves display technical mastery and inimitable craftsmanship.

After paying the entry fee, we made our way to the nearest structure, the one we were most eager to look at – Cave 16, the Kailasha Temple.

Of all the caves, number 16 is the most awe-inspiring one. Called the Kailasha Temple, it is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is twice the size of the Parthenon in Athens. What makes it special is that it isn’t built by adding stone on top of stone. In fact, an entire mountain was cut from top to bottom and intricate, symmetrical carvings were made as the workers made their way down. All other temples in the world use a construction method that starts at the front of the mountain (cut-in monolith). Kailasha temple is the only one that uses the cut-out monolith rock cutting technique where the structure was carved by scooping out pieces of the mountain as pillars and walls were carved in a single monolith.

Many believe that building this temple with human hands in the absence of modern tools is impossible, which gives rise to a lot of speculation on its origin. Here’s an interesting video I found on why many people believe that the temple was built by aliens. I must admit, after watching the mathematics of it, it does make a lot of sense.

We spent a good hour at Kailasha temple, fascinated by its intricacies. It is a living example of sheer human will, endeavour and inner beauty. The fact that the temple was once a huge chunk of rock lingered in my mind as we sauntered around the pillars and climbed up and down its various steps. Huge carvings of elephants and Lord Shiva feature alongside finger-sized animals and human figurines on its rocky walls.

We walked in to every cave from 1 to 16 and speculated on what it could be used for. Some were pretty bare, with only pillars, others looked like unfinished buildings in Mumbai and still others had intriguing religious sculptures. While Caves 1 to 4 were plain and austere, a treasure lay in Cave 5 – a sculpture of an immense, ornate praying Buddha.

Cave 7 overflowed with lush carvings of dancing dwarfs and busty goddesses, with every detail of their clothing, ornaments and headdresses rendered with precision. Apart from these, all the caves look pretty ordinary, with sculptures and pillars.

 

Some caves were eerily quiet, others swarmed with school children and still others were dark meditation chambers where someone calls a deep ‘om,’ that echoes as he holds the tone, amplified by the stone walls.

The Ellora Caves are surreal. Outworldly. Pictures don’t do it justice, and if you’ve visited, you’ll know what I mean. The caves aren’t arduous and can be easily covered in a day.  If they do happen to tire you out, grab lunch at one of the restaurants on the main road, a few steps away… like we did.

You may also be interested in reading my last post on Bibi Ka Maqbara, another sight to behold in Aurangabad.

Let’s talk about the caves and aliens some more! Join me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

See ya there!

“Only let this one tear-drop, this Taj Mahal,

glisten spotlessly bright on the cheek of time,

forever and ever.”  – Tagore   

Let me start this post with a confession – I’ve never been to the Taj Mahal. (I know, right?)

Visiting this majestic monument is like a rite of passage for Indians as well as tourists visiting the country and I reaaally hope to cross it off my bucket list soon!

Rabindranath Tagore calls it a teardrop on the cheek of eternity. Part of the Taj Mahal’s beauty derives from the story that the stones embody. It’s a tomb for the dead wife of a powerful emperor, but it’s also a monument of love that would be remembered throughout the ages.

Over a thousand kilometres down south stands ‘the other Taj Mahal.’ One that lives in the shadow of its counterpart but is also a symbol of love. Built by none other than Shah Jahan’s grandson aka. Aurangzeb’s son – Prince Azam Shah for his mother, Rabia Durani.

When my cousins wanted to go to Aurangabad, I wondered what there could possibly be for them to see there. Ajanta and Ellora caves are historical monuments as well, but to be honest, caves aren’t something I’d travel to see (unless I can spend some quality cousin-time with my peeps) When I saw Bibi Ka Maqbara, however, I got excited.

At first glance, it does look like a smaller, compressed version of the Taj Mahal, made not entirely of glistening white marble, but a combination of marble and plaster. It fails to compare with the exquisite poetry that is the Taj Mahal, but is at best, a poor shadow of the masterpiece.

Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan’s son vowed to live a life of austerity, away from the riches of the kingdom, a decision that deprived his son of the wealth he would have inherited. One can’t help but wonder if his son, Prince Azam Shah, had access to all that wealth, would the ‘Taj of the Deccan,’ have been any different? Unfortunately, he lacked the treasury his grandfather had access to and the skilled labour that it bought.

The main entrance is embellished with a beautiful foliage design on a brass plate on wood. Just like the Taj Mahal, this mausoleum too stands on a raised platform surrounded by a garden and fountains, with four minarets in the four corners. The garden is enclosed by high crenelated walls and open pavilions on three sides. One can approach it by a flight of steps from three sides. However, the main onion dome is smaller in size as compared to the Taj, and the minarets are shorter.

Once you’re inside the mausoleum and turn your eyes upward, you’re greeted with a jaw-dropping, intricate work on the marble dome. Looking down, one can see the tomb with the mortal remains of the queen draped in green velvet. Muslim graves often turn into places of worship. People make a wish and leave an offering of money on the grave. When I looked down upon Rabia Durani’s grave, it took me a while to figure out that what I was looking at was vast amounts of money – coins and notes in various denominations. Since the Archaeological Survey of India takes care of the site, and unlike the traditional dargah where money does to feed the poor, I wonder where this money goes.

The walls itself are duller in appearance and the lack of good workers and material clearly shows. What cost Shah Jahan’s Taj Mahal a staggering 3 crores to build way back in 1648 cost Azam Shah’s Bibi Ka Maqbara a paltry 7 lakhs, 30 years later.

When seen by itself, it is a beautiful piece of work. But it pales in comparison to its famous fore-bearer. Foreigners wanting to visit the monument will need to pay a fee of Rs. 200, while the fee for Indians is Rs. 20.

Almost forgot to show you my favourite picture of the trip!!

Let me know if you enjoyed reading this blog post! I’ll also be giving you the deets on where I stayed and what else I saw in Aurangabad! See you on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Bye!